“It’s Your Birthday” Wins Birthday Song Replacement Contest

Artwork by Greg Harrison

Last year the Free Music Archive (a project spearheaded by Ken Freedman of “The Mighty” WFMU fame) fired the salvo heard round the copyright world (OK, actually just the indie rock/intellectual-property-rights-reforming/99% of the world, but still): they challenged all indie artists to unseat a certain century-old song’s supremacy at birthday celebrations worldwide. Yes, folks, a call to arms for a Creative Commons replacement for the big kahuna: “Happy Birthday to You”!

The Free Music Archive wants to wish Creative Commons a Happy Birthday with a song. But there’s a problem. Although “Happy Birthday To You” is the most recognized song in the English language and its origins can be traced back to 1893, it remains under copyright protection in the United States until 2030. It can cost independent filmmakers $10,000 to clear the song for their films, and this is a major stumbling block hindering the creation of new works of art.

(want backstory? WNYC’s “On The Media” aired this segment about the song and its dubious (ahem, fallacious…) copyright claims a few years back)

Well, the judges have spoken and the winner is… “It’s Your Birthday” by Monk Turner + Fascinoma! They’ve posted a lovely MP3 performance you may download (gratis) and the sheet music (key of C) (also available in B), but I thought I’d run it through Song-a-matic (‘cuz, well, that’s what I do) and share it (download PDF songsheet).


Below’s the ChordPro formatted song; if you need to change the key just pop it into the Song-a-matic Editor and choose “Transpose” or if you just hate Comic Sans font (why again exactly?) you can choose a more serious theme from under the “Appearance” menu (the song’s released under Creative Commons “attribution” license, so go crazy with it).

{title: It's Your Birthday!}
{artist: Monk Turner & Fascinoma}
{album: Free Music Archive "Happy Birthday Song Contest"}
# http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Happy_Birthday_Song_Contest/
# license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

It's your [C]birthday! Happy, [G]birthday!
It's your [C]birthday! Happy, [F]birthday!
"It's a[C] great day!" That's what [G]we say.
Happy [F]birthday, [G]to [C]yo-[F]oo-[C]oo-[F]oo-[C]ou!

A catchy, toddler-friendly song that’s easy to learn and extemporize upon; inserting your birthday celebrant’s name, for example, is quite easy, no matter how many syllables.

While “It’s Your Birthday” aces core requirements for a good b-day chorus (short, few chords, repetitive lyrics for slow starters — tailored to both elementary schoolers and mates drunkenly celebrating at the pub) there are quite a few other fantastic, funny, ‘n odd entries, so take a few minutes to peruse the hundreds of entries! On of my favorites is Romie Stott’s “Birthday Song” — though admittedly it’s perhaps better suited to we of the “over the hill” crowd.

Turner & Fascinoma on Bandcamp

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